WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (1564 - 1616) :  Shakespeare's sonnets are very different from Shakespeare's plays, but they do contain dramatic elements and an overall sense of story.


Each of the poems deals with a highly personal theme, and each can be taken on its own or in relation to the poems around it.


Shakespeare's Sonnets is the title of a collection of 154 sonnets accredited to William Shakespeare which cover themes such as the passage of time, love, beauty and mortality.


It was first published in a 1609 quarto with the full stylised title: SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS. 

As it may be a bit difficult for you to understand it, I decided to include a paraphrase of the three poems in contemporary English.




Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer's lease hath all too short a date:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;

Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this and this gives life to thee.*



* TRANSLATION into modern English :


Shall I compare you to a summer's day ?

You are more lovely and more mild in temper:

Rough winds shake the buds of May

And summer is far too short:

Sometimes the sun is too hot,

Or often goes behind the clouds;

And everything that is beautiful will lose its beauty,

By chance or by nature's planned out course;

But your eternal summer (the memory of your life) Shall not fade,

Nor lose the beauty that belongs to it;

Nor will death claim you for his own,

Because in my eternal verse you will live forever (become one with time);

So long as there are people on this earth,

So long will this poem live on, giving you immortality.   

SONNET 29    


When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,

I all alone beweep my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon myself and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,

Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,

With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,

(Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;

For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings

That then I scorn to change my state with kings.*



* TRANSLATION into modern English :


When I’ve fallen out of favour with fortune and men,

All alone I weep over my position as a social outcast,

And pray to heaven, but my cries go unheard,

And I look at myself, cursing my fate,

Wishing I were like one who had more hope,

Wishing I looked like him; wishing I were surrounded by friends,

Wishing I had this man's skill and that man's freedom.

I am least contented with what I used to enjoy most.

But, with these thoughts – almost despising myself,

I, by chance, think of you and then my melancholy

Like the lark at the break of day, rises

From the dark earth and (I) sing hymns to heaven;

For thinking of your love brings such happiness

That then I would not change my position in life with kings.



That time of year thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou see'st the twilight of such day

As after sunset fadeth in the west,

Which by-and-by black night doth take away,

Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the death-bed whereon it must expire,

Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.

This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well which thou must leave ere long.*



* TRANSLATION into modern English :


In me you can see that time of year

When a few yellow leaves or none at all hang

On the branches, shaking against the cold,

Bare ruins of church choirs where lately the sweet birds sang.

In me you can see only the dim light that remains

After the sun sets in the west,

Which is soon extinguished by black night

The image of death that envelops all in rest.

In me you can see the glowing embers

That lie upon the ashes remaining from the flame of my youth,

As on a death bed where it (youth) must finally die

Consumed by that which once fed it.

This you sense, and it makes your love more determined

To love more deeply that which you must give up before long.